NOGALES — From the halls of Washington, D.C. to Mexico City, and everywhere in between, much has been said about Donald Trump's vow to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But the Mexican daily La Jornada found one interested party who'd not yet been heard from on the matter: an experienced people smuggler along the clandestine border crossings.
Alejandro Moreno, who has been helping people sneak north of the border for 19 years, said the new American president's plans for a wall along the entire frontier is "an opportunity" for Mexican smugglers to hike fees and boost profits from assisting illegals. "We're already rubbing our hands," he said.
Moreno added that "the wall will be no obstacle. On the contrary, it will boost our earnings as we'll charge more for the brinco," he said, using the word "jump" that refers to the illegal crossings.
La Jornada reported that Moreno's network alone has smuggled more than 300,000 people into the U.S. over the years. The city of Nogales, in the Mexican state of Sonora, borders Arizona, and is not far from Tucson. Moreno notes that the frontier fence that already exists is 10 meters high, equipped with sensors, surveilled by 24-hour patrols and drones hovering over it.
"If Trump increases the security, the only thing that will happen is that we'll charge more ... for the risk. Also because we'll have to pay more bribes to officials, more to the police and the migra," referring to migration authorities he did not identify.
His service typically costs a migrant between $2,000 and $4,000, with Central Americans paying more as they were moved over a longer distance. Moreno revealed that since 2004, drug cartels had restricted crossing times as they needed to keep certain hours free for drugs, which were always "the priority." Smugglers now coordinated their crossings with the cartels, he said.
Moreno, who referred to his smuggling operations as "services," doesn't consider himself a criminal. He said migrants were only charged once they had reached a safe house inside United States territory, after often walking across 80 miles of desert. La Jornada quoted the trafficker as saying the border crossings help lift migrants "out of ruin" by leading them to where they can find work: "There are people who call to say 'thank you.'"
Though Moreno himself doesn't necessarily have the same message for Trump, he sounds neither sorry nor worried about any wall that might be built.